Presenter of the National Book Awards

2006 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry

Louise Glück

Averno

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Photo credit: Sigrid Estrada

About the Book

The eleventh collection of poems from this award-winning poet.

About the Author

Louise Glück is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Seven Ages (2001); Vita Nova (1999), winner of The Boston Book Review’s Bingham Poetry Prize; Meadowlands (1996); The Wild Iris (1992), which received the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; Ararat (1990), for which she received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; and The Triumph of Achilles (1985), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Boston Globe Literary Press Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Kane Award. She has also published a collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (1994), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. Her other honors include the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In the fall of 2003, Glück assumed her duties as the Library of Congress’s twelfth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Also in 2003, she was named as the new judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. She currently teaches at Yale.

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EXCERPT

Excerpted from AVERNO by Louise Glück
Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. All rights reserved

Averno. Ancient name Avernus. A small crater lake,
ten miles west of Naples, Italy; regarded by the
ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld.

 

the night migrations

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.


It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them—
these things we depend on,
they disappear.


What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.

i

 

oc tober

1.
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted


didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters


wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe


didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury


terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted—


I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t vines climb the south wall


I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground


I no longer care
what sound it makes


when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound


what it sounds like can’t change what it is—


didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted

didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?

6


2.
Summer after summer has ended,
balm after violence:
it does me no good
to be good to me now;
violence has changed me.


Daybreak. The low hills shine
ochre and fire, even the fields shine.
I know what I see; sun that could be
the August sun, returning
everything that was taken away—


You hear this voice? This is my mind’s voice;
you can’t touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened,
don’t ask it to respond again.


A day like a day in summer.
Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples
nearly mauve on the gravel paths.
And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer.


It does me no good; violence has changed me.
My body has grown cold like the stripped fields;
now there is only my mind, cautious and wary,
with the sense it is being tested.


Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer;
bounty, balm after violence.
Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields
have been harvested and turned.


Tell me this is the future,
I won’t believe you.
Tell me I’m living,
I won’t believe you.

 

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